Fruits Of The Worry Tree

   "Self-preservation is the first law of nature." Everything has some method of protection. Even the plants have "defense mechanisms." Animals have shells, teeth, sharp claws, are swift of foot or wing. Some of them produce noxious odors. Some of them are unpleasant to the taste. The octopus secretes an inky fluid with which to color the water. Some animals have great skill in hiding themselves. Some have electric defenses. Some are covered with spines.

  Man has a natural instinct of self-preservation. He will run or fight or secrete himself or use other methods of defense. This law of defense is manifest in man's physical contact with nature. This is known too well to need explanation. He has also various mental defense mechanisms. Likewise in spiritual things he seeks to protect himself.

  These various defense mechanisms have a powerful effect upon our conduct. When we are brought into a trial, threatened by something that will hurt or annoy us, when we fear something, our defense mechanisms begin at once to function. The first impulse is to run away, to escape from the trouble. We shrink from what hurts. We try to avoid trials and all hard or unpleasant things.

  It is often the part of wisdom to avoid as far as we can without sacrificing something vital, the unpleasant things of life. But if we give away too much to this disposition to shrink from things and to run away from them it leads to cowardice. We lose strength of character, courage, and the qualities that win in life. A coward can never feel self-respect, and if we are spiritual cowards we shall be lacking in manhood and womanhood. We cannot respect cowardice even when it is in ourself.

  This disposition to escape unpleasantness often leads to an unfair excusing of ourselves in things in which we have been at fault. It often leads to our putting the wrong face on things, exaggeration, minimizing the facts, and even to plain lying. These are the natural fruits of fear and worry, but they undermine spiritual character. They take the joy out of life. We need to watch our defense mechanisms and be sure that we use right methods of defense, methods that build up the character rather than to tear it down; methods that increase courage, faith, and determination. We should conquer the instinctive cowardice of our natures. "Safety first" may be a good slogan sometimes but safety through the measures mentioned is not real safety. It is only exchanging one kind of danger for another.

  Another defense mechanism is the tendency to resistance. When we adopt proper measures of resistance the results will probably be good. We are likely to be strengthened, encouraged, and helped. It is likely to bring out the best there is in us. But sometimes this instinct of resistance manifests itself in murmuring, complaining against circumstances or against people, blaming others for our plights or our troubles, shifting responsibility. These may become chronic faultfinding and result in such a critical attitude that we are hard to please, contentious, ill-tempered. We may become disposed to become impatient and find it hard to practice self-control. We may have a sense of resentment against others and become unkind and uncharitable in our attitude.

  Not only those who are not Christians have trouble along these lines, but many Christians are tempted in this way. They worry and fear. They become discouraged and then the characteristics mentioned begin to manifest themselves in them. They have a fight to overcome them. They wonder why they are impatient, why it is hard to be kind, why they have a feeling of resentment against things.

  We need not be surprised at this. It is only a defense mechanism. It is Nature trying to escape from this highly unpleasant situation. So, reader, you need not be surprised if you have a conflict with these things when you are worrying and when you have given way to discouragement. To get rid of these things get rid of your worry, your fear, and your discouragement. Then these other things will naturally disappear. But if you are given to worry do not expect to escape wholly from these things. Indeed you are likely to have much trouble with them. These are not necessarily the result of sin. They are the result of worry and fear. They come from a wrong attitude of mind, a wrong outlook on things, a wrong way of trying to overcome difficulties.

  In such a situation the outlook is negative. We need to change to a positive attitude. We need to put faith in the place of doubts. Trust instead of worry. Look on the bright side instead of the dark side.

  A negative attitude destroys faith and robs courage of its strength, so we can bear little. It covers the bright picture of hope with sackcloth. It banishes peace. Instead of soul-rest we have turmoil and trouble. It robs us of balance and poise. Confidence fades away. It gives place to distrust. We lose our power of initiative. In fact, worry and fear rob us of all the choice blessings we might possess. They prevent us from using our powers and make us pigmies instead of giants.

  The triumphant life results from courageous action and this courageous action is always based on faith. It has a hopeful outlook. It faces the future with confidence. This is the normal attitude of the Christian. But worry causes heaviness, discouragement, dissatisfaction, despondency, and perhaps despair. Long giving way to worry will change the character. The blithe gaiety of childhood, the courageous strength of manhood, the joyful song of victory, gives way to moroseness and gloom. Clouds cover the sky and we forget there are anywhere the glorious beams of sunshine. We ruin our influence with others. They feel more like shunning us than being in our society. It shackles our hands. It robs life of what is most worth while. If we will have a worry tree or a number of them we must expect they will bear this sort of fruit.

  Worry also has another extremely bad result. It dishonors God. We say God is our Father, that he is taking care of us. We say we have faith in him. We say we believe God is faithful. Then we act in a way altogether contrary to this. If God is our God and if he is taking care of us, if we are safe in his care, if no evil can come to us without his permission, then what are we worrying about? If God really is what he says he is and what we believe he is we have no reason to worry. Things are bound to come out all right. God will find some way to bring us through to victory. He will protect us against those things that would injure us. If he is true our fears are ungrounded, our worry is all for nothing. If we really believe God is true and that he is true to us there is not a reason under heaven for us to spend one moment worrying.

  Again, worry dishonors God's Word. He has made definite promises. These promises are true or they are not true. If they are not true then we may have cause for worry. But if they are true let us act like it. Do we actually believe God's Word? If so, when we are tempted to worry let us sit down, take that Word, and read its promises. Then let us believe them and act as tho we believe them. When we do this there can be no room for worry.

  Worry ignores the help God has given us in the past and the victories we have won through his grace; also those victories we have won through our own strength. When we are tempted to worry we should sit down and look over the past and see how many things came out better than we expected they would. We should ob serve how God has helped us in the past and say with one of old, "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us." It will do us great good, when we are tempted to worry, to recount our past victories; to look back and see that our past worries were all for naught. When did worrying help anything in your past life? When did worrying keep anything from coming upon you that otherwise would have come? When did worry shield you from any trouble? Get rid of your worry tree. Get out from under its shadow. Get into God's sunshine. If you will do this it will not be long until the song of victory flows forth from your lips and peace and courage and hope spring up anew in your heart.

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